Realising the virtual30 October 2013
Virtual graphics and moving cameras can make for a difficult partnership. Croatian company Stype Grip offers a solution that allows 3D virtual objects to be reliably placed into any set with precision
Stype Kit employs a standard Stanton Jimmy crane to deliver pan, tilt and positional data that Vizrt software can use to realistically place virtual objects in a set. The system also has an auto-aiming feature that allows the camera to stay focused on any point on the real set or the virtual scene.
Every movement of the crane arm is recorded to a high degree of precision. Camera movement and position, including focal data, and pan, tilt and roll movements of the camera head are recorded too, as well as distance to the subject. This data is encoded and output to computer to allow the camera to interact with and focus on virtual objects in realtime.
The Stype Kit began with company CEO Stjepan Čajić’s invention of an automatic focusing of the crane. Čajić, who was a national Croatian programming champion, began to develop the auto-aiming system as his graduate project. Because the system was so precise, Čajić thought it would be useful to allow the camera data to be sent to a 3D graphics engine.
Čajić explains: “It wasn’t until later that we found that the project was suitable for the virtual studio market. To be able to make this automatic aiming really, really good, we pushed to the limits all the precision of camera data. And I had this idea that you could output the data to a computer to Autodesk Maya or 3D Studio Max. I didn’t have in mind realtime virtual studio applications at that time. “
Stype has developed a relationship with Vizrt and the two have recently partnered for a job in China. “Stype Grip has a good cooperation with Vizrt who see us as a good hardware provider for their software solution.”
The company’s big breakthrough came earlier this year when Fox Sports were putting together a virtual studio for its Australian National Rugby League coverage. Fox had not been able to find a suitable solution with its usual provider Shotoku, and, discovering Stype Grip on the web, decided to take a gamble on the Stype Kit.
“It was a lucky situation with us,” says Marko Nakić, Stype Grip’s creative director, “Fox already had an agreement with Shotoku. But for this new show they were making, they had some trouble, so Bob Slater, at Fox Sports, decided to speed things up a bit and he found us.”
“At first, they were a bit sceptical of course, because we are new on the market. We were not proven yet. But when they saw it and started using it, I guess they fell in love with it!”
Interest has surged since the Fox adoption. Stype Grip is currently getting enquiries from Canada, Spain, and China. “Now is a period when a lot of people have seen what we did and a lot of people are interested to try it out for themselves.”
“When we mentioned an encoded crane to someone, they said ‘OK, another encoded crane’,” says Čajić, “but the automatic aiming combined with virtual output is what makes the product unique.”
By Neal Romanek